SF Chefs: Ben de Vries of Proposition Chicken
Chef Ben de Vries
Learn from some of the city’s top chefs about the best places to go for late night grub, their favorite recipes and what makes San Francisco dining utterly unique.
We sat down with executive chef Ben de Vries, of Proposition Chicken and formerly Luella, who shares a delicious recipe for watermelon salad, talks about his inspiration and recommends some of his favorite restaurants in the city. De Vries’ passion for food runs deep, and he is a man of extremes — his love for the perfect pizza is equal to his love for The French Laundry. “I appreciate food that doesn’t try to be something it’s not,” he says.
What are your recommendations for the best, late night eats in San Francisco?
Ryoko - some of the best sushi in town served till 3 am!
What would your last meal be in San Francisco?
A large double pepperoni pizza from Pauline’s.
What is your favorite food or style and why (seafood, Thai, Indian, etc.)?
It would be a toss-up between pasta, almost any kind, and simple Mexican.
What are your recommendations for sourcing Bay Area ingredients?
Nothing beats the farmers markets in the Bay Area. Every time I have a friend in town, most days start by going to a different market. But, if you can't make it to the markets, the Berkley Bowl is by far the most diverse grocery store.
How does San Francisco influence you as a chef?
The produce! We have unparalleled access to the best ingredients in the world. They usually tell you how to cook them.
What is your favorite San Francisco neighborhood and why?
The Mission is by far my favorite hood! I've lived there for 15 years and the diversity, culture and weather are unmatched anywhere else in San Francisco.
Ben de Vries’ Watermelon Salad Recipe
1 large watermelon, cut into cubes
2 cups feta cheese, crumbled
6 leaves mint, cut into a chiffonade
2 tablespoons toasted pinenuts
¼ cup red onion, brunoise
Mix watermelon with half of feta, mint, red onion, cayenne and the juice of two limes. Place in serving bowl and sprinkle with pine nuts and remaining feta.
Ben de Vries was raised by his mother and grandmother in Ann Arbor, Michigan. While his mother worked full time and studied for her master’s degree, his grandmother did most of the cooking, and de Vries cites her as his first culinary influence. De Vries was only six when he announced, “I would like to be a chef and have my own restaurant.” Pre-made taco mixes and Swanson’s Hungry-Man dinners were a mainstay back then, and 35-year-old de Vries still treasures “Zesty Pizzas,” a cookbook his mother gave him when he was 12. The book’s title was foretelling, as de Vries lends a zestful vitality to everything that comes out of his kitchen.